- Envoys from 57 Islamic nations as well as observer delegations are participating in the meeting being held in Islamabad to discuss Afghanistan's situation
Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday that Afghanistan could potentially become the biggest "man-made crisis in the world" if the international community did not act now.
The premier made the remarks while delivering the keynote address at the 17th extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers to discuss Afghanistan's situation in Islamabad.
"Forty-one years ago, an extraordinary session of the OIC was held in Pakistan to discuss the situation in Afghanistan," he informed the participants that included Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and delegates from the United States, China, Russia, the European Union, UN, and a number of Muslim countries.
Praising other presenters for highlighting the seriousness of the situation in Afghanistan, he said: "If the world doesn't act, this will be the biggest man-made crisis which is unfolding in front of us."
He said the US has been in conflict with the Taliban for 20 years, but the existing dire situation concerns the people of Afghanistan, stressing that it was important to take immediate action.
Envoys from 57 Islamic nations as well as observer delegations are participating in the meeting. Earlier, after the recitation of the Holy Quran, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi formally declared the extraordinary session "open".
"Let me start by commending Saudi Arabia for their leadership in convening this session," Qureshi said. "I want to welcome OIC Secretary-General Taha. This is the first foreign ministerial meeting after his appointment.
"Pakistan is also gratified by the trust reposed in us by the OIC. Your presence here on short notice affirms the importance the world and OIC hold for the people of Afghanistan. The significance of this gathering goes beyond mere symbolism. It is a matter of survival for them."
Detailing the plight of people in Afghanistan, Qureshi said: "Over half their population — 22.8 million people — face food shortage. Millions of Afghan children are at risk of dying from malnutrition. This situation has been brought about by a multiplicity of factors such as years of conflict, poor governance and excessive dependence on foreign aid."
"It is unfortunate that the hardship and suffering of the Afghans has not eased," he said.
"This organisation (OIC) has consistently supported the rights of the people and called on the rest of the world to think beyond their economic and domestic compulsions."
The meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is the biggest major conference on Afghanistan since the US-backed government fell in August.
Talking to media persons on Saturday, Qureshi had said about 437 delegates had so far got themselves registered for the OIC-CFM session, which he termed as “very important and historic”.
He warned the world against ignoring the looming humanitarian and economic crises in Afghanistan, adding that if the right steps at the right time were not taken, the world could face a new refugees’ influx, particularly, economic migrants.
After the Taliban's lightning return to power in August, billions of dollars in aid and assets were frozen by the international community, and the nation of 38 million now faces a bitter winter.
The United Nations has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of the world's worst humanitarian emergency with a combined food, fuel, and cash crisis.
On Sunday, Pakistan's capital was on lockdown, ring-fenced with barbed wire barriers and shipping-container roadblocks where police and soldiers stood guard.
Any aid pledges were set to be announced Sunday evening.
Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi is among the delegates, alongside others from the United States, China, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
No nations have yet formally recognised the Taliban government and diplomats face the delicate task of channelling aid to the stricken Afghan economy without also propping up the hardline.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi said the meeting would speak "for the people of Afghanistan" rather than "a particular group".
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the only three countries to recognise the previous Taliban government of 1996 to 2001.
Qureshi said there was a difference between "recognition and engagement" with the new order in Kabul.
"Let us nudge them through persuasion, through incentives, to move in the right direction," he told reporters ahead of the OIC meeting.
"A policy of coercion and intimidation did not work. If it had worked, we wouldn't have been in this situation."
OIC office in Kabul to assume responsibility
Meanwhile, the OIC announced on Saturday that its humanitarian office in Kabul will assume its responsibility in coordination with various international agencies in delivering the required assistance to the millions of Afghan people in need.
OIC’s Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Cultural and Social Affairs, Ambassador Tarig Ali Bakheet said that the OIC humanitarian office in Kabul will assume its responsibility in coordination with various international agencies in delivering the required assistance to the millions of people in need.
“I am confident that the OIC fraternity, the United Nations, and regional partners would take all necessary steps to bring sustainable solutions to the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Afghanistan in which millions of lives are at stake,” said Ambassador Tarig Ali Bakheet, according to OIC’s brief statement on Twitter.
“It is crucial for the international community to take swift action to ensure that the people of Afghanistan have unimpeded access to life-saving assistance, and the humanitarian support need to be scaled up,” he further stated.